Holidays are routinely connected with drinking, and police, being quite aware of this propensity, use these occasions to set up DUI checkpoints hoping to catch someone who has a blood alcohol level over the legal limit of 0.08 percent. St. Patrick’s Day is one time of celebration particularly associated with alcohol, and Kansas City Police have historically set up multiple checkpoints to capture as many drivers possible. Last year, 66 people were arrested on suspicion of DUI at various sobriety checkpoints in Kansas City. Further, thousands of vehicles were screened, exposing drivers to unfair scrutiny and the possibility of being unjustly arrested for DUI. While keeping unsafe drivers off the road is an important and legitimate concern for police, DUI checkpoints are broad actions that sweep up many more innocent drivers than those driving intoxicated. Law enforcement are, however, typically operating within the bounds of the law when using DUI checkpoints, which are justified as public safety actions. Though, certain rules must be followed when setting up and running these operations. In any event, drivers still have rights, and they need to know the limit of law enforcement’s authority, and how to protect everyone’s safety when navigating these areas.
Drivers’ Rights at Checkpoints
DUI checkpoints are a method law enforcement use to get around restrictions on random searches of people and property. They involve setting up roadblock at pre-announced locations, and stopping vehicles according to a certain pattern, i.e., every tenth car, to look for signs of intoxication. In Missouri, drivers stopped by police are under no obligation to roll down their window, and are only required to produce a driver’s license or insurance card, which should be displayed against a closed window, if suspected of a traffic violation. Otherwise, this information does not have to be provided. Nor does a driver have to speak to officers or respond to their questions. However, for practical purposes, it may better to cooperate to some degree to avoid heightened scrutiny and even more inconvenience, but only insofar as to facilitate a quick exit from the checkpoint, and not to provide information that could be used against themselves. Importantly, Missouri drivers are permitted to refuse to take the preliminary roadside breathalyzer test (handheld device) and all field testing (standing on one leg, the fingers to nose test, etc.). Refusing the preliminary breathalyzer is a fineable violation, but is not a crime. It is, nevertheless, much better to pay a fine than risk giving police grounds to arrest and file charges. Finally, officers are not permitted to search a vehicle or drivers unless there is probable cause of intoxication, or the driver consents, which should never be granted.
Safely Getting Through a Checkpoint
DUI checkpoints are primarily operated at night, a time of day when visibility is an issue. Thus, these roadblocks can be dangerous for drivers that must move through them. Compounding the issue of limited visibility is the fact that most of these checkpoints are poorly lit and inadequately marked, and officers may give unclear directions about which way to go. Consequently, drivers need to move slowly and carefully through these checkpoints, and attempt to follow officer direction to the fullest extent possible. Avoiding them entirely is the optimal choice, but if that is not possible, use extra caution and refrain from sudden maneuvers to prevent hitting police standing by the road or other drivers.
Talk with a Kansas City DUI Attorney
DUI charges not only expose you to possible jail time, but also affect your ability to drive, putting your job at risk. Kansas City’s Hollingshead & Dudley understand what is at stake, and will use their extensive experience to vigorously defend your rights. Contact them today for a free consultation.